Microsoft fans waited nearly 18 months for the prestigious Lumia 950 and Lumia 950XL to arrive. And after their unveiling less than a month ago, you’ve probably already forgotten about the duo. That’s because a total of zero socks were blown off when Microsoft trumpeted their arrival.
It’s an amazing achievement on Microsoft’s part — deflating more than a year’s worth of anticipation in minutes. How is this possible? It’s simple: Microsoft doesn’t care enough about phones, the people who may buy its phones in the near future, or the people that have bought its phones in the past. When it comes to mobile, Microsoft just doesn’t deserve your money or attention anymore.
Windows Phone was a breath of fresh air back in 2011, but its failure to evolve and keep up with Android and iOS in features and apps has been difficult to watch. Microsoft’s consistently poor handling of new Windows Phones — which are now almost exclusively limited to these Lumia phones in the United States — is all the reason you should need not to ever buy one.
There’s an odd saying that fits here: “If you can’t fight, wear a big hat.” That’s the best way to describe the big Lumia 950 reveal. The saying could be taken various ways, but to me, it has always meant that those who lack something special make up for it by shouting loudly. Microsoft, bereft of anything to actually say about its new phones, decided to let Panos Panay — a man so intense, if he shaved his head he’d be Robert De Niro from Taxi Driver — terrify us into listening at its much-hyped event. He was joined by Brian Roper, who actually wore a hat on stage, proving how appropriate that old phrase is.
In contrast, think about how a Galaxy phone is introduced, or an iPhone. Apple and Samsung reveal these devices in almost pornographic ways, and we’re left wanting them. Microsoft’s big attempt to fire us up was to highlight the Lumia’s hardware camera button — a feature it has touted for nearly half a decade.
But presentation is only a small part of Microsoft’s problems with Windows Phone.
This has been going on for a while
Windows Phone has been treated like an unwanted fashion accessory by the company for years. It’s like the ironic “Charles in Charge” t-shirt in the back of Microsoft’s closet: Maybe it looked cool in 2011, but it’s not seeing the light of day much.
Windows Phone has done a spectacular job at becoming steadily less popular since its introduction five years ago, thanks to errors like charging developers for access, limited manufacturer support — remember the crushing dullness of hardware like the LG Optimus 7 and the Samsung Ativ SE? — and ridiculously lengthy waits for basic features that every other phone has, like a notification drawer.
Windows Phone has done a spectacular job at becoming steadily less popular since its introduction five years ago.
Then there’s the app store. Sure, it’s better than it used to be, but big names are still missing — Snapchat and Tinder to name just two. How Microsoft expects anyone to take its platform seriously without any official Google apps is probably the most baffling. It’s possible to work around some of the gaps, but why go to all that trouble when every app you could conceivably want is available right now on an iPhone or an Android device?
Then there’s the issue of abandonment. If you’ve owned a Windows Phone, you live with the knowledge that Microsoft may change its mind and start over with the OS yet again, leaving your phone out in the cold. Windows Phone was a starting over point from Windows Mobile, and even some early Windows Phone 7 devices didn’t make the cut for Windows Phone 8. This is less likely to happen with its grand Windows-10-for-all plan, but there is a worse possibility: Microsoft may give up on the Lumia line altogether, and move on to a Surface phone.
In July, it wrote off $7.6 billion from buying Nokia’s Devices division and laid off 7,800 workers, almost all of them from the phone side of the business. That came after 12,500 Nokia employees were laid off in 2014. Want conclusive proof that Microsoft doesn’t care about building a desirable, user friendly, comprehensive mobile ecosystem? It’s firing the people who could actually do it.
No one’s selling Windows Phones
If, after all this, a new Lumia is still the phone for you, Microsoft’s not going to make it easy to buy one. Why would it? The Lumia 950 is available only at AT&T so far. The 950XL is nowhere to be seen, except through Microsoft’s own store.
It’s a shame, because the price is competitive at $550 and $650 for the 950 and 950XL respectively, and regardless of the many problems with Windows Phone, they’re by all accounts really good devices.
The new Lumias also have Continuum, the cool feature where your phone can link up to a monitor and work like a Windows PC. It’s the killer feature that really does make Windows 10 different. So should you grab the Lumia 950 or the Lumia 950XL? No. If you’re intrigued, wait for Acer’s Jade Primo instead. It’s going to come as a complete package with dock, mouse, keyboard, and phone — all ready for Continuum-based fun.
Microsoft waited until a few days after the big Windows 10 hardware launch to tell everyone that the Windows 10 phone update won’t come until December. This update was announced almost a year ago! Getting Windows 10 on older Lumias will likely stretch well into 2016. Sadly, we may see a number of high-profile Android phones get Android 6.0 Marshmallow before Windows 10 comes around.
Want to check out a Windows Phone that’s not a Lumia? We wish you luck finding one.
Desperate to be contrary? Buy a BlackBerry
If you really must be contrary, and won’t buy an actual Android phone or an iPhone — which are the most sensible options — then ignore Windows 10 and throw BlackBerry a bone. It’ll be a whole lot more grateful than Microsoft. Yes, seriously.
We warned you not to buy a BlackBerry a couple years ago, but even that limping dark horse would be a better bet than a Windows Phone. Microsoft doesn’t seem to care about smartphones much anymore, but BlackBerry listened to critics and made a phone that people may actually want to own. Yes, it has taken years to learn from its mistakes, and it has saddled the resulting product with a stupid name, but the Priv runs Android, can access the Google Play Store, has a slide-out keyboard, and bundles in lots of added security to keep the BlackBerry brand alive.
It’s an unknown quantity at the moment, but it’ll have more than enough popular apps available to download when you buy it, and the slide-out keyboard does make it almost unique. Sure, it may be awful, but you’re the one wanting to live life on the edge and not buy a sensible smartphone.
The cancelation of the Lumia 940 gave us hope we were in for a treat with the Lumia 950. Instead, we were given two afterthoughts with little innovation and absolutely no love inside. I still love my brick-like Lumia 920, but I’d never upgrade it for another Windows phone. What’s the point? None of them are really any better. That’s bad considering the 920 came out in 2012.
Microsoft continually reinvents itself, particularly when it comes to mobile, and this reinvention is resulting in stagnation. It’s sad. Microsoft’s poor treatment of Windows Phone has continued with its disinterest in Lumia. Why then, should you invest time and money in its Lumia 950 or 950XL?
Our advice? Don’t.